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REF NO.: 156

SUBJECT: Indigenous music and dance focus of symposium organized by Memorial University of Newfoundland and the University of Toronto

DATE: April 17

Leading ethnomusicologists and researchers will join indigenous musicians from around the world for an international symposium next month in Ontario.
            Indigenous Music and Dance as Cultural Property: Global Perspectives will take place at Victoria College at the University of Toronto (U of T) May 1-4. It’s being led by Memorial University of Newfoundland and U of T.
             Roughly 25 indigenous musicians and 25 academics from eight different countries will converge for formal and informal presentations, workshops, performances and public discussions. Delegates from the World Intellectual Property Organization and the secretary general of the UNESCO-affiliated group the International Council for Traditional Music (ICTM) will also participate.
            The colloquium is an official ICTM event.
             “The ownership of traditional indigenous knowledge is urgent for all indigenous people but, so far, discussions to date have often focused on land or water rights, environmental or biological knowledge, and trademark wars,” said Dr. Beverley Diamond, Canada Research Chair in ethnomusicology at Memorial University of Newfoundland in St. John’s, N.L., and the director of its Research Centre for Music, Media and Place (MMaP) at Memorial.
              “These have had a place of privilege, with music and dance relegated to a subordinate position in discussions to date. We aim to identify best practices for regulating the uses of traditional music and dance in the context of globalization, and to enhance awareness of the complexity of traditional Indigenous knowledge systems.”
            She and Dr. Gage Averill, vice-principal and dean of the University of Toronto Mississauga who until recently was also the dean of Music at the U of T, are co-ordinating the event.
            Dr. Diamond said the four-day meeting will address common themes and concerns including the development of community protocols for traditional knowledge, appropriate access to archival materials in the digital age, indigenous-centred pedagogies and guidelines for respectful contemporary creative work.
            She said participants bring experience and knowledge of various cultures and traditions from around the world including Native American, First Nations, Inuit, Métis, Hawaiian, Saami and Maori. 
            Dr. Robin Elliott, Chalmers chair of Canadian Music and director of the Institute for Canadian Music at the University of Toronto, added that “one of the most exciting aspects is the rich synergistic potential for the development of exciting new creative ideas and practical strategies."
            This is one of the first times ethnomusicologists and such a diverse group of indigenous musicians and dancers have met together.
            It all adds up to an exciting conference.
            “The major issues faced by indigenous peoples are now thoroughly global in scope, and so this colloquium will help to globalize the discussion and the response, especially around issues of rights to expressive culture and performance,” said Dr. Averill.
            The international colloquium is being funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada, the Canada Council, the International Research Linkages program of the International Council for Canadian Studies. Specific sessions within the colloquium are being co-sponsored by the Indigenous Peoples Caucus of the Creators Rights Alliance, ImagineNative, and the Institute for Canadian Music.
            In addition to workshops and sessions, there will be several public events taking place in Toronto.
            On Friday, May 2, there will be a screening of the New Zealand feature documentary Guarding the Family Silver (or Ripping off the Natives). The film takes a look at the impact on intellectual property system on Maori and the appropriation of traditional symbols, images and words in the global market-place.
            It takes place in room 119 of Emmanuel College at 8 p.m. Admission is $5.
            On the final evening of the event there will be a feature concert with a spectacular lineup of performers from seven countries.
            Global Spirit: An Indigenous Showcase will bring together traditional art forms such as Australian didgeridoo, Hawaiian hula with contemporary music such as Inuit word art, Maori beats and Grammy award-winning Native American song.
            It takes place in Walter Hall in the Faculty of Music at the University of Toronto at 7:30 p.m. Admission is $15 / 10 (students and seniors).
            To learn more about the Indigenous Music and Dance as Cultural Property: Global Perspectives colloquium, visit
Editor’s Note: Media interested in arranging interviews with performers or speakers can e-mail Denise Bolduc at

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For further information, contact Jeff Green, communications co-ordinator, Division of Marketing and Communications, Memorial University of Newfoundland, at (709) 737-2142 or  


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